Have lessons been learned from Borutski’s crimes?

OPINION

On November 20 2018 the provincial government issued a media release entitled Ontario Working to Stop Violence Against Women and Support Survivors. It announced that it is investing $11.5 million this year to better support frontline shelter workers serving women and children and delivering counselling programs across the province.

Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues Lisa MacLeod said,

We want to make sure those affected by violence and exploitation receive the supports they need, while offenders are held accountable through the justice system.

Whereas increasing the quality of frontline support for women and children under threat is laudable, for residents of Renfrew County the memories of the murders of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam remain fresh. Before he committed his heinous crimes, Basil Borutski had already been “through the justice system,” yet it failed to take appropriate steps that might have saved the lives of the three women.

During his trial it was revealed that Borutski had been convicted of assaulting and attempting to choke Kuzyk the year before she was killed. At the time of that assault he was on probation for offences against Warmerdam including threatening to kill her dog and harm her son. A term of that probation required him to participate in a domestic violence response program but he never attended a single session. Leighann Burns, executive director of Harmony House, an Ottawa-based women’s shelter, was reported as saying after the Borutski trial had finished that Borutski’s potential for violence was clearly visible to everyone involved in those cases. She also asked whether the justice system did enough to contain that danger.

In response to these concerns, MPP John Yakabuski introduced (and reintroduced) a private member’s bill aimed at ensuring that offenders like Borutski would obey the terms of their probation and parole. It would also require those convicted of sexual violence to have an electronic monitoring system that would let authorities know where they are at any given time. His bill died on the vine when the Ontario legislature was dissolved in May 2018.

At the time, Yakabuski noted that he often hears from residents who want greater accountability placed on parolees so that their victims are safer:

It is unacceptable that a year has passed since Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton were taken from us, yet the government has not passed legislation to strengthen our parole system. Government must take this matter seriously and acknowledge there are ways to provide greater protection to victims of violence – anything less is unacceptable.

Until some action such as Yakabuski’s proposed bill is taken, ministerial pronouncements about the effectiveness of the justice system will continue to have a hollow ring about them. Prosecuting and getting convictions is only the first step. Implementing a regime of serious repercussions for those like Borutski who thumb their noses at obligations imposed following conviction, for example complying with probation or parole terms, is essential.

 

Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (2018, Nov.20) Ontario Working to Stop Violence Against Women and Support Survivors [News release]

Featured photo: Kat Jayne

3 Comments

  1. Bernadine Roslyn

    When the Liberals were in power, MPP Yakabuski could only introduce a private member’s bill. Now that his party is in power, and he is a member of Cabinet, I hope he will again make the effort to strengthen protection for victims of violence.

  2. Pat Scott

    The biggest problem with the parole system, I think, is that there are so many on parole, if they stay down below the radar, stay out of trouble, even if breaching parole in some ways but not bad enough to warrant police intervention, then they continue to be free. There is not enough prison spaces and not enough police to watch everyone.
    When an inmate is released on parole and there was abuse against women, the women need to be informed so they are prepared. This should be non negotiable on the part of our justice department.

    Inmates, when released on parole are not required to sign their parole guidelines.
    If the inmate does not want to sign the officer who is present reads the parole guidelines to the inmate and signs stating that this has occured.

    We need to work on the things that can be changed and push forward with this, which I think as a 1st step is the release notification , whether on parole or time served.

  3. Very good article Danielle.The Fifth Estate and The Ottawa citizen both published over 5 hours of interviews with Basil Borutski.Here is the Fifth Estate interviews available on Youtube.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekJVbFONywQ&index=2&list=PLwLemcOVaOPzFBChEFnM9Of-de1dRK9_m&t=0s
    I found the story very compelling. Of course what he did and the way in which he affected those poor families is reprehensable to say the least. I lived in Killaloe all my teen years and have been coming back to where mom and dad live since I moved away. His story, I believe is not unique though. I am sure there re still many who are involved in violent relationships that feel a change will come. People don’t change.
    Especially in rural areas where there are too few properly trained people to deal with these kind of social issues. The police, who Basil had a particular hate for, most likely had no idea how to deal with his mental condion, other that just putting him in jail, to the extent the law would allow. The women who were the victims of his murderous rage, when he finally blew up, did everything they could, to distance themselves from him legally but he knew where they were and used them “as an example when the police failed to help him”, in Basil’s words.
    The whole justice system is more of a patchwork of efforts, rather than being an effective system.
    My hope is that there will be some positive improvements going forward.While I lived in Killaloe, I remember sometimes the sheer frustration of having being intimidated and bullied at times with the attitude that I just have deal with these issues myself. My parents were the only ones I really trusted and everything I knew came from them. Don’t get me wrong.I love Mom and Dad to death, and they were exceptionally good parents, but that is not always the case. What if you are taught something different. What if violence is part of your growing up and you are made to just take it?
    I think that way of living is becoming a part of our past. The younger generation has been taught and made aware of these critical social issues, and I beieve they are opening their eyes and mouths when they are confronted, bullied, manipulated, abused and exposed to violence.
    We all need to look for red flags,report them, and make sure and follow the reports until we all are keeping our sisters (and brothers in some cases) safe.
    It is our business to help those who are victims of violence, and even if the justice system lets some of the worst people fall through the cracks, we need to be vigilant. The Justice system as well as the mental health community really need our help and feedback.

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